We are planning to have a general workshop for the English language teachers in our school. I know the sky is the limit, but we have just one day with the usual delay in starting, and the tea and lunch breaks, we have exactly five hours. Not an ideal situation, I know, but as a school, we would like to do our best. Any suggestions?
It is not the number of hours but the learning outcome, that determines the meaning of a workshop. Do the teachers leave the workshop motivated and raring to go, or are they burdened with a sense of ‘Oh my God! There is so much that I still don’t know. How will I get through the year, with the overwhelming number of students, and pressure from the parents, the principal and the management?’
Workshops can be very stressful for teachers if they are going to land up with a resource person who treats them not as students, but as pillars of knowledge who have to be pooh-poohed if they display any signs of ignorance. Most teachers go through a workshop with a sense of dread for many reasons: The principal or the vice-principal is ever pervading, a member of the management flits in and out to make sure that the resource person is delivering what has been promised or envisaged, and sometimes the resource person unfortunately, scares the wits out of the teachers, leaving them too numb to take in any kind of input. The result is a group that goes into a shell for fear of being ‘exposed’ in an unfavourable light.
Students and parents may think that teachers are erudite and possess a wealth of knowledge that is just waiting to be shared. But only those in the teaching fraternity can really comprehend the apprehension, the tension, and the language difficulties that teachers may face. In addition to this is the constant questioning of their choice of profession every single morning as they face the restless or the uninterested student. So why not begin a workshop with some inspirational and motivational quotes on the teaching profession? Teachers yearn to be recognized and there is nothing like motivational quotes highlighting the herculean task of teachers to give them a glimpse of how much a section of society appreciates them. Quotes like A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others is noted down by teachers, probably to cheer themselves up on days when they don’t feel too good about doing their jobs.
Instead of focusing on what they don’t know (and we all don’t know quite a bit!), taking them through the various levels of language and instilling in them a sense of confidence is what is going to benefit the students. Teachers don’t need to be taught; they have enough experience to study on their own. What they need is to be led through certain difficult areas where they are in doubt. What teachers need today is to be able to speak with confidence. So don’t just focus on grammar and vocabulary, but focus on pronunciation. Teachers of English want to sound different from the other teachers. Unfortunately, some of them have not had early exposure to the language and hence the slight diffidence. Guiding them in this area by introducing tongue twisters or dealing with commonly mispronounced words is a quick and effective method of bringing in awareness. No doubt grammar rules are important, but the teacher needs to feel confident when talking to a class of 40 and 50. It is this confidence that will help improve the listening and speaking skills of the students.
If your school can afford it, avoid having an in-house resource person for the workshop. Teachers keep their mouths sealed for reasons ranging from embarrassment to feeling threatened or mortified. A resource person from the outside world is likely to be less judgmental and more impersonal, and therefore the audience too will be more relaxed.
Allow the workshop be a fun session for your teachers. They in turn will make things fun for their students. Teachers need to understand how pleasantly they can handle the students in class. Have the workshop focus on how to handle the classroom bullies or restless students effectively and quietly. Teach them the language skills to handle these situations that sometimes get out of hand.
Encourage teachers to participate in as many activities as possible so that they too understand how they can use what they have learned. At the end of the day, if the teachers have enjoyed the session, have taken something in, and leave with the feeling of ‘It’s not so bad being a teacher after all,’ then your school has done its bit towards the teachers.
The author is a teacher educator and language trainer based in Chennai. She can be reached at email@example.com.